Understanding FSMA

Understanding the Food and Drug Administration’s new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there are several groups actively working to help famers understand these regulations and establish plans for compliance. While this process may seem burdensome, it is a good way to ensure that the food you produce and distribute is safe, a good thing for your customer and your business.

The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training Course is one way to satisfy the FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirement outlined in § 112.22(c) that requires “At least one supervisor or responsible party for your farm must have successfully completed food safety training at least equivalent to that received under standardized curriculum recognized as adequate by the Food and Drug Administration.”

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has several great resources for understanding FSMA. The below document is a comprehensive overview of the final ruling.

This flowchart from NSAC will guide you through understanding to what extent your operation will be affected by FSMA and/or if you are exempt from the guidelines. This site also has links to overviews of FSMA.

The FDA, as the agency that FSMA is housed under, has produced several factsheets on the various components of the act. This overview is a clear layout of the final rule including what actions will be needed to comply.

The Produce Safety Alliance is another group based out of Cornell University with extensive resources to help farmers understand FSMA. This site includes access to a listserve for staying up to date on the discussion happening around FSMA compliance as well as information about Grower Training Courses that will be coming to Maine shortly. Stay tuned for more information about that.

Those interested in selling to wholesale markets will often be required to obtain a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification. Farms currently GAP certified should be mostly in compliance is FSMA standards, but the guidelines of FSMA should be checked to ensure compliance. More information about GAP certification can be found below.

Jason Bolton is the University of Maine Cooperative Extension point person regarding food safety from a processors perspective, while Mark Hutton and David Handley are the University’s contacts regarding on-farm food safety. They can be reached at: